The LMS sent evangelists who started work in Tahiti in 1797 and rapidly extended it. Many other bodies have played a smaller part in attempts to evangelize the Pacific Islanders, notably Wesleyan Methodists, Presbyterians, and Lutherans. Among RCs the work was entrusted particularly to the Picpus Society, whose members included Father Damien, and the Marists. Anglican work began under G. A. Selwyn, first Bp. of New Zealand, and the diocese of Melanesia (founded in 1861) formed part of the Province of New Zealand until it became an independent Province in 1975. The Anglican mission in Papua, founded from Australia in 1891, developed into the Province of Papua New Guinea, formed in 1977.
Difficulties of communication and the savagery of many of the inhabitants made the task of missionaries in the South Pacific a hard one, though most of the people now profess Christianity. In the 20th cent. there was much ecumenical activity. The United Church of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, inaugurated in 1968, brought together Methodists and the Papua Ekalesia, which had grown out of the work of the LMS. Another trend in the late 20th cent. was the creation of self-governing Churches and the advance towards indigenous leadership. See also Paton, J. G., and Patteson, J. C.